The Nightly Turbo: Esfandiari Versus Hellmuth, Stratosphere Owner Launches Poker Site

Antonio Esfandiari

Antonio Esfandari's battles with Phil Hellmuth at the poker table always make for good entertainment. Much to our delight, the two superstars will soon be facing off in London at the PartyPoker Premier League. We'll bring you that story, plus a new online poker site in the U.S., in this edition of the Nightly Turbo.

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Hellmuth and Esfandiari Join Premier League

Let the needling begin.

On Monday, PartyPoker announced that Phil Hellmuth and Antonio Esfandiari will participate in the $125,000 buy-in Premier League Poker VI at Aspers Casino in London from March 17 through 23. They will also compete at the World Poker Tour Venice Main Event from March 25 through 30.

Esfandiari, who's taken every chance to provoke the temperamental Hellmuth in the past, will be participating in the Premier League for the first time. Hellmuth has been a regular fixture in the popular event, but returns in 2013 after missing Premier League V in Vienna last year.

Said Esfandiari, “For years I have been hearing about Premier League Poker – it’s nice to finally make it over there to play in it!”

“I am looking forward to competing in the Premier League: 16 players, one winner," Hellmuth added.

Esfandiari and Hellmuth join Daniel Negreanu and Scott Seiver as the first four confirmations on the Premier League VI lineup. The 16-player tournament will award the winner with a top prize of $450,000.

According to a press release, "the event will feature 16 players split up into two groups of eight in the Main Event, each competing in four league matches showcasing the famous point system ($2,000 per point). The top three from each group will automatically go through to the final table, while the fourth and fifth seeds will square off in a series of heads-up matches (best of three) for spots in the eight-handed finale."

The PartyPoker Blog has more.

ACEP Launches Ongame-Powered Poker Site

On Tuesday, American Casino & Entertainment Properties (ACEP) Interactive officially launched its free-to-play poker website, The site will use the Ongame poker software recently acquired by Bally Technologies.

The new website allows players the opportunity to play free online poker 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The site provides online players with exclusive promotions, including show tickets to critically acclaimed shows at the iconic Stratosphere Casino, which is owned by ACEP. Other prizes include opportunities to experience Stratosphere’s thrill rides at the top of the Tower, including SkyJump, a controlled free fall from 108 floors above the Las Vegas Strip.

“With the launch of this free to play website, we can now bring the excitement of play found at our properties to anyone with Internet access, no matter their location,” said Alec Driscoll, director of gaming development for ACEP. “We are also positioning ACEP and for the potential approval of legalized online gaming.”

Last September, the Nevada Gaming Commission approved ACEP as an interactive gaming operator ahead of the state's real-money online poker market. ACEP's software platform is provided byBally Technologies, which recently acquired Amaya Gaming and will incorporate Amaya's Ongame software into Bally's iGaming platform.

Bally was approved for a Nevada gaming license as a service provider last June. ACEP and Bally teamed up on Sept. 25, 2012, shortly after ACEP was approved for its license.

Visit for more information on the new site.

New Jersey's iGaming Efforts Moving Quickly

After an interstate online gambling bill (A2578/S1565) was conditionally vetoed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last week, state legislators say they are planning to vote on amendments to the bill on Feb. 26 before putting it back on Christie's desk for signature.

“The Senate will move forward to adopt the governor’s conditional veto on Feb. 26," said Senate President Steve Sweeney on Monday. "The sooner we bring Internet gaming to New Jersey, the better off Atlantic City is going to be.”

State Sen. Ray Lesniak, the chief sponsor of the bill, said he will work on making the recommended changes to the measure and get it returned to the governor. Among Christie's recommendations include a tax increase from 10 to 15 percent, with part of the additional proceeds going to compulsive gambling programs, and a time limit of 10 years for the authorization of Internet gaming unless re-established by law.

"The sooner we get Internet gaming in place, the sooner we will begin to see the economic benefits that will come with it," Lesniak said.

Lesniak told PokerNews last week that he expects the assembly to have already passed the revisions during its voting session on Feb. 14 or Feb. 21. Then, following six months to finalize regulations and review casino applicants, Lesniak anticipates the first virtual hands to be dealt in New Jersey this fall.

New Jersey is attempting to become the third state to legalize online poker in the U.S. Nevada authorized Internet poker in December 2011, and Delaware passed legislation last June.

Read more in the press release at PolitickerNJ.

Washington State Lawmaker Aims to Lessen Online Gambling Penalties

Online poker has been illegal in Washington State since a prohibition bill was signed into law in 2006. Since then, online gambling within state lines has been a class C felony, which calls for up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines. As a result, several Washington-based poker pros relocated to more gambling-friendly areas of the world.

On Monday, however, Washington State Rep. Paul Harris proposed a bill that would reduce the penalties for online gamblers who play recreationally. House Bill 1824 changes language to lessen the crime to a “class 3 civil infraction,” easing the maximum penalty to $50.

According to the proposal, recreational purposes means "solely for the defendant's own enjoyment and not as part of an enterprise that derives income from operating an internet web site that transmits or receives gambling information."

Outside of Utah, which prohibits all forms of gambling, Washington has been the staunchest opponent of Internet gambling in the U.S. In 2010, following a ruling that Washington State's online gambling statute did not violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker blocked real-money players from playing in Washington State. PokerStars said in a statement that the policy will remain in place until the laws change.

PokerFuse has more on the latest from Washington.

acePlay Poker Celebrity Charity Championship

As we reported above, ACEP Interactive launched a free-to-play online poker site on Tuesday, and has plans to run a real-money version in the near future. Earlier this year, the Stratosphere Casino held the first annual acePlay Poker Celebrity Charity Championship. Among the celebs in attendance were 2011 Playboy Playmate of the Year Claire Sinclair, UFC fighter Frank Mir, and poker pro and WPT Raw Deal host Tony Dunst. The winner earned $5,000 toward the charity of their choice. Here's a brief look at the event:

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